Karen Davis

29 March 2011 – Tasmanian architect Karen Davis has become the first woman to head Tasmania’s peak architecture body in its 108 year history.

Ms Davis takes over from Richard Crawford as Tasmanian president of the Australian Institute of Architects.

She has said she wanted to promote excellence in architecture and urban design to make cities more liveable and sustainable.

She also said that she wanted to promote the Institute’s response to the Major Cities Unit’s “Our Cities – A National Urban Policy” consultation paper and to encourage governments to stop the continued expansion of cities into their hinterlands, which is not sustainable,  instead increasing and encouraging urban density and amenity in existing areas.

On her role and on architecture in Tasmania Ms Davis said: “It’s an exciting time in Tasmanian architecture, especially with development proposed around the waterfront in Hobart, and significant planning reforms proposed for single dwellings. In addition, contemporary Tasmanian architecture is now being recognised nationally – winning three of the 12 categories at the 2010 national architecture awards in October.

“The Institute has an important role to play in encouraging and promoting excellence in architecture and urban design in order to make our cities more liveable and sustainable. Architects like Maria Gigney, who received the 2010 national small project award for Strangio House, demonstrate that skilful architectural interventions can breathe new life into old buildings to make them liveable again.”

Strangio House was a conversion project of a small, 170 year old mason barn into a compact and contemporary residence in Hobart.

“The Institute calls on governments to stop the continued expansion of cities into their hinterlands, which is not sustainable, and to increase and encourage urban density and amenity in existing areas.

“The importance of good urban design which promotes mixed use developments, quality public space, universal access, adequate open space, pedestrian friendly streets and the improvement of public facilities (such as parks, schools, health facilities, public transport and the like) is vital to ensuring that our cities remain liveable, sustainable, accessible to all, and most importantly are economically viable into the future. Architects, as major contributors to the built environment, are well equipped to help to deliver the challenges of delivering more sustainable cities,” she said.

Ms Davis said she had recently attended an honour roll of women presentation in Launceston, where the first woman architect to be registered in Tasmania and the first female associate of the Institute, Margaret Keitha Findlay, was posthumously honoured for her contribution to architecture.

“I found it fascinating that back in the 1940s, the sorts of issues that Margaret spoke about are still relevant today. Throughout Margaret’s career, she stressed the importance of domestic architecture to women’s health and happiness, talked of the need for proper town planning and advocated for improvements to the architectural diploma course for all students in Tasmania.

“I can imagine that the male domination of architecture at the time would have made it all the more difficult for Margaret to achieve what she did.

“Today we are fortunate that this imbalance has started to be addressed, with more than 30 per cent of Tasmanian architectural graduates being women, although history shows that a much lower percentage of them go on to become registered architects.”